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Will "Blind Edip" Sing? Volume 54 Number 1, January/February 2001
by Özgen Acar


Alleged smuggler Edip Telli (Özgen Acar)

The Swiss High Court has returned 62-year-old antiquities smuggler Edip Telli to Turkey. Arrested in the town of Alstaetten in March, he was extradited on October 30. Known as "Blind Edip" because he has vision in only one eye, Telli was the mastermind in the smuggling of the 1,900 fifth-century B.C. silver coins found at Elmal1, near Antalya, Turkey, in April 1984. Edip, his brother Nevzat (now serving time for smuggling 92 kilos of heroin into England), and Munich antiquities gallery owner Fuat Üzülmez had set up a consortium to buy and sell the hoard.

Edip Telli was taken into custody in Munich following the circulation of an Interpol bulletin in 1985 requested by Turkey, but was released by the local prosecutor because he was judged to be a "respectable German citizen." He was again arrested in Italy, but, with mafia assistance, he managed to return to Germany a few days later. Meanwhile, both Tellis took on the nationality of their wives, German and British. Because he had taken foreign nationality without obtaining permission, Edip Telli was stripped of Turkish citizenship in 1989.

Telli remained in Munich until he thought the warrant had expired. He was unaware, when he traveled to Switzerland in March, that as a result of his involvement in the smuggling of 531 antiquities in Istanbul on June 12, 1991, the warrant had been renewed. The Swiss court examined the file sent by Turkey and decided that Telli should be extradited. Following the rejection of his lawyers' appeals, he was handed over to a police team from Turkey.

According to reports in the Turkish media, other ringleaders in the country's antiquities mafia--afraid that Telli might reveal the details of various smuggling activities and the people behind them--have fled to Europe. Telli has been named in many cases, among them one of a statue of "Weary Hercules" (see "Turkey's War on the Illicit Antiquities Trade," March/April 1995).

© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America